Good Books and the Random Movie

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Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States

28 May 2015

The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir has been called a Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

Ares 3 from NASA is the first manned mission to Mars. After a few unmanned explorations and fourteen flights to deliver equipment, Ares 3 is on Mars with six astronauts. They are to be there for less than a month and then use the Mars Ascent Vehicle, or MAV, to get back to their ship.

On day six a massive wind storm his the base. Due to needing everything to be as light as possible to get enough lift to get back into orbit, the MAV is fragile. If it tips more than 13 degrees off of the base, there will be no escape. As the winds get stronger, the mission commander orders an evacuation. Visibility is down to almost nothing.

Leaving teams of two, astronaut engineer and botanist Mark Watney is struck by part of an antenna, thrown backward into the dust and his crewmates think him dead. Commander Lewis spends as much time as she can looking for him, but has to get in the MAV to save the rest of her crew.

Watney is not dead. Because he landed face down, blood sealed the hole in his suit and prevented too much oxygen from escaping. Now he must figure out how to make enough food for six people to last one month last him four years until the next mission is due to land on Mars. As far as he knows, everyone on Earth thinks he is dead.

Weir has created a science fiction book that is sure to become a classic. Watney is a creative and humorous character who is a cross between Robinson Crusoe and MacGuyver. The science is as accurate as possible, both with his fixes and with NASA's reaction. Even readers who didn't know they liked science fiction will find this a great read. The Martian is sure to become a classic.

Weir, Andy. (2014). The Martian. New York: Broadway Books.

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20 May 2015

Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3)

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger is the third book in her Finishing School series of alternate, steampunk history set in 1850s England.

Sophronia and her friends attend Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality. A school that no only teaches them to catch a good husband, but become spies.

When one of her best friends receive an urgent notice from home then runs off, Sophronia wants to help. Given permission to leave the school for her brother's engagement ball, Sophronia and her friend Dimity are escorted off of school grounds.

When the ball is interrupted by two werewolves and a Scottish Lady, Sophronia leaps at the chance to help. What follows is an adventure of both great feats and mishaps.

Carriger has created a wonderful young adult series set in the same world as her adult Parasol Protectorate series. This is a fun, historical version of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series.

Carriger, Gail. (2014). Waistcoats and Weaponry. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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17 May 2015

Clean Slate

Clean Slate by Andrea Bramhall is a romance story that proves that some people are just meant to be together.

Morgan Masters is a college art teacher. She recently left her wife and is living in a crappy apartment near campus. When one of her class models asks her to get a drink, Morgan at first declines. Once she is talked into the evening she is on a path that will change everything.

Outside of the bar, Morgan is attacked. When she wakes up in the hospital she had lost part of her memory. She knows who she is, but nothing from the last twenty years. She is sure someone is playing a joke on her when the doctor says it is 2012, not 1992.Her partner, who is still in shock over Morgan leaving, doesn't know what to do.

With the help of her best friends, and previous college roommates, Morgan tries to come to terms with what has happened during the last twenty years. Including her mother's death, the fact she is married, and that she has two children.

Imagine knowing someone for years and sharing your life with them and they are just getting to know you. Bramhill took a concept that has been done again and again and made it new.

Bramhall, Andrea. (2013). Clean Slate. New York: Bold Strokes Books.

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11 May 2015

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4)

The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett is the fourth book in his Demon Cycle fantasy series - set in a world where demons rise in the night to attack and people traditionally huddled indoors behind defensive wards that repel the demons, but then one man found the courage and knowledge (in the form of combat wards) to fight back.

After the cliffhanger ending in the last book, the fight of human against demon continues each night, while during the day the Krasians move north further into the land of Thesa in an attempt to unify everyone against the demons under their leader, or Shar'Dama'Ka, Ahmann Jardir - believed to be the foretold Deliverer who will save humanity from the demons.

As always with a book in the middle of a series it is difficult to give a summary without spoilers, so I will not attempt it here. Brett has created a fascinating world with many characters both endearing and frustrating. Fans of fantasy should read this series.

Brett, Peter. V. (2015). The Skull Throne. New York: Del Rey.

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04 May 2015

Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in her Grisha trilogy - a fantasy series set in Ravka, a world with a Russian feel.

Alina Starkov grew up in the dukes home with the other orphans of the boarder wars. She is still inseparable from her best friend Malyen Orestev. When they left the orphanage, they joined the army. Now he is a tracker and she is map maker. They are on their first assignment near the Unsea - a black stain on the country that divides it in two. Crossing the Unsea, or the fold, is dangerous as there are creatures who live in the dark and love the taste of human.

When their group attempts a crossing, Alina has never seen a dark so black. She hears things coming toward their ship. The Grisha, or masters of small science, use their magic to send fire toward the beasts as soldiers use rifles. Alina is terrified when they are attacked. But when one of the creatures attacks Mal, she throws herself in the way and wishes with all her might to save him.

Suddenly, a light as bright as sunlight blooms. The monsters are held at bay. When Alina wakes up they are back in the town they left before attempting to cross. Before she knows it, Alina is thrown into a carriage and sent to the capital. She will be tested and trained to use a power she doesn't belive she even has.

Bardugo has created a great fantasy series. It reminds me a bit of the books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon - which I loved. Alina is a compelling character thrown in over her head and separated from her best friend. She will have to use strength she didn't know she had to survive.

Bardugo, Leigh. (2012). Shadow and Bone. New York: Henry Holt.

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02 May 2015

None of the Above

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio is a coming of age book with a twist.

Kristin Latimer has everything going for her. She is the captain of the track team. She is dating a football player whom she loves. And she is going to Homecoming tonight with her boyfriend, her two best friends since before she could walk, and their dates. But after tonight her world will change.

Krissy has decided that homecoming night will be the night that she and Sam finally go all the way. However, after a painful attempt, she makes an appointment with an ob/gyn to make sure everything is alright. What the doctor finds, surprises them both.

Kristen has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS, which is an intersex condition. She was born with the external genitalia of a female, but some of her insides are male.

While Kristin and her father see other doctors and try to process the news, Kristen tells one friend. When she gets back to school the following Monday, everyone knows - or knows a distorted versions of the truth. She is called a man and harassed. The friends who would stick by her and/or hear her side before deciding are lost in the crowd.

Gregorio has written a great book about an eighteen year old girl questioning herself and trying to figure out what her diagnosis means for her life. This is a great and important book written beautifully and with compassion. Read it.

Gregorio, I.W. (2015). None of the Above. New York: Balzer and Bray.

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